"Good luck, Jim. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds."
January 8, 2014 12:23 AM   Subscribe

Snapchat represents the greatest existential threat yet to the Facebook juggernaut. Today’s teens have finally learned the lesson their older siblings failed to grasp: What you post on social media–the good, the bad, the inappropriate–stays there forever. And so they’ve been signing up for Snapchat, with its Mission: Impossible style detonation technology, in droves.

As user numbers approached 1,000, an odd pattern emerged: App usage peaked between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.–school hours. Spiegel’s mother had told her niece about the app, and the niece’s Orange County high school had quickly embraced Snapchat on their school-distributed iPads, since Facebook was banned. It gave them all the ability to pass visual notes during class–except, even better, the evidence vanished. Usage doubled over the holidays as those students received new, faster iPhones, and users surged that December to 2,241. By January it was at 20,000; by April, 100,000.

(via FORBES magazine)
posted by all the versus (109 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
To view a snap users hold a finger on their phone screens, a feature designed to make it still more difficult for people to photograph the image with another camera.

I obviously don't have this installed, but wouldn't someone be able to take a screenshot from their phone pretty easily with or without a finger on the screen? This article says that the sender gets notified if you try that, but that there are ways to defeat the notification.
posted by maudlin at 12:33 AM on January 8, 2014


Snapchat Complies with Government Requests, Sends Images to Law Enforcement

Also, since the images are stored on the Google App Engine, they of course never disappear for good.
posted by brokkr at 12:33 AM on January 8, 2014 [12 favorites]


maudlin: "wouldn't someone be able to take a screenshot from their phone pretty easily with or without a finger on the screen?"
The number of Snapchat picture dumps I've seen on 9gag and imgur says "yes".
posted by brokkr at 12:35 AM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm going to make my millions by being a consultant to the tech industry teaching high-powered spokesmen to TUCK IN THEIR GOD-DAMN SHIRTS.
posted by dudekiller at 12:38 AM on January 8, 2014 [25 favorites]


One thing lost in all the San Francisco + SV startup dominance of techbusiness is that many of these companies basically present a sanitized, dumbed-down corporate version of what distributed nerds & teenagers have had for years. What I'm saying is that 4chan has had more-or-less this for years, backed up by its hardcore Anon ethos.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 12:39 AM on January 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


I assume this post is part of the "parents join Snapchat" trend.
posted by michaelh at 12:49 AM on January 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


'Today’s teens have finally learned the lesson their older siblings failed to grasp'

orly? What I got from this particular statement is that there is a very specific period/generation of connected humans who have been just plain screwed in terms of behaviour-policing.
posted by cendawanita at 1:03 AM on January 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


I obviously don't have this installed, but wouldn't someone be able to take a screenshot from their phone pretty easily with or without a finger on the screen?

My understanding is that iOS didn't used to send a notification to the app when a screen shot was taken (this might have changed in iOS 7). However, some overworked developer figured out that what it did do is cancel all touch events. So the apps detect screenshots by looking for canceled touch events.

The point isn't to prevent screenshots per se, it's to let you know what users are prone to taking them.

That's my understanding, having never used the app.
posted by sbutler at 1:05 AM on January 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also, since the images are stored on the Google App Engine, they of course never disappear for good.

This is why I post my Facebook updates in a brown envelope taped under a park bench at a prearranged time every week.
posted by three blind mice at 1:14 AM on January 8, 2014 [24 favorites]


orly? What I got from this particular statement is that there is a very specific period/generation of connected humans who have been just plain screwed in terms of behaviour-policing.

I think it raises questions, essentially, about the distinction between self-censorship, and the need for privacy—and then the social ramifications of that. I'm not sure what to make of it yet, but the very absence of this discussion whenever Snapschat gets brought up is what's telling. That's sanitization.
posted by polymodus at 1:26 AM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I obviously don't have this installed, but wouldn't someone be able to take a screenshot from their phone pretty easily with or without a finger on the screen? This article says that the sender gets notified if you try that, but that there are ways to defeat the notification.

Snapchat's official position is that you should not send pictures that you don't want saved to people you don't trust. They only make it difficult to save pictures, not impossible. Basically the idea is that people just aren't automatically saving every picture you send, which makes it less likely that your pictures get out there, but if someone is determined, they can do it.
posted by empath at 1:29 AM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Snapchat's official position is that you should not send pictures that you don't want saved to people you don't trust. They only make it difficult to save pictures, not impossible. Basically the idea is that people just aren't automatically saving every picture you send, which makes it less likely that your pictures get out there, but if someone is determined, they can do it.

Even if it was perfect on the software side, there's the analogue hole and the opportunity just to take a picture of the screen. As Hollywood has learned, you can't really win.
posted by jaduncan at 1:54 AM on January 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


Ah, well, even if it's not perfect, a method for which individual messages can be manually saved is still a big improvement over methods where everything is automatically saved all of the time. I really hate 'being on the record' all of the time - I find that when I have to consider the implications of everything I say, I just don't say anything. But even that won't save you on Facebook, since having discretion won't magically confer it to your friends. They'll be happy to post compromising pictures of you, talk about the stuff you've been doing together, etc. even if it isn't a good idea.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:06 AM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think an SCP where you can't take a picture of the app screen could be a good starting point.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 2:08 AM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


i'd suggest that water is still wet.
posted by j_curiouser at 2:33 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think an SCP where you can't take a picture of the app screen could be a good starting point.

This would be great for 1 to 1 communications. Unfortunately, teens don't give a shit about that. That's easy. They want stuff to show other people and get them involved.

You think getting 30 favorites on your comment is a big deal? Sheeeet. You've never been on a high school 'overheard' page.

Kids want to protect their stuff from adults with power to restrict them, they want to share amongst themselves.

So yeah...this is gonna get popular...and then lose popularity with the younger crowd, as the older crowd starts posting projects from their knitting circle.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:37 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


The snapchat protocol has been reverse engineered which means it's possible to write non-official clients that have no restrictions on behavior, such as saving every photo received.

A couple days after that information was made public, someone used the fact that you could find snapchat users by phone number to launch a bruteforce scrape of common US area codes to gather and leak the usernames and phone numbers of 4.6 million users. Apparently these 23 year old geniuses didn't think to rate limit or throttle their APIs, let alone ponder the privacy considerations of being able to look up a username by phone number without some kind of third party introduction/friend approval procedure.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:42 AM on January 8, 2014 [29 favorites]


So yeah...this is gonna get popular...and then lose popularity with the younger crowd

It isn't getting popular, it is popular. I'm 23, and pretty much every single person i know within a couple years of my age is on snapchat. All the younger people like everyones siblings are too.

And what these discussions always seem to miss is the silver bullet function this is at least sold as even if it falls a little bit short of this goal: personal DRM.

Which, to just be completely straight up here, this is THE platform to send nudes without worrying that they're getting stored or will come back as any sort of "revenge" photo. Yea, someone can screenshot it but you test that with a relatively mild one at first and if they do they never get anything again.

There was a weird dead period of nudes being sent among youth pre-snapchat for maybe the past 3-4 years outside of long term monogamous relationships with the exception of dick picks and seriously happy go lucky people who didn't give a fuck. A sort of cold war had happened with stuff like isanyoneup where no one, but especially not young women wanted to send anyone nudes because there was just no access control/chain of custody type of solution available.

This opened the floodgates, being just secure enough that anyone buy a fairly technically minded person on the receiving end couldn't circumvent the screenshot detection much less the expiration.

I would argue that this app has likely transmitted more "child porn" in the sense of highschool freshmen sending nudes to eachother than any other network in the history of the internet. It's not that it doesn't get used for other things, but i bet if they applied a similar algorithm to what omegle(and i believe maybe photobucket and a few other sites?) now uses to detect dicks and other nudes it would be a ridiculously high percentage.

That said though, i feel that this service is really the napster of this sort of thing. It will soon be completely blown wide open by a webapp/mobile site ala fusker with private photobuckets or some other vector of attack and it will be instantly abandoned and only left over for moms to send pictures of their knitting to eachother as you said, and just become a complete bizarre web ghetto like myspace is now. It will, however, set the standard for a more secure version of something that is going to be a major part of web communication from here on out: The kind with controlled automatically revokable access and a verifiable chain of custody.

Apple is in a great position to really slam dunk the funk here and own this if they just build something like this directly in to imessage with end to end encryption, and integrate prevention of screenshots both in the OS and analog hole prevention with something like scanning the backlight like a lot of high-end TVs(and now, desktop gaming monitors), or inserting random extremely brief frames of blanking to static/etc that would garble photos by rolling shutter cameras like in smartphones. Slap that shit into an OS update and no one else will be able to kick the door open.

There's already a fairly common distrust of facebook as both a platform and a corporation building among my generation, and any move they make into this will be viewed with skepticism i bet. Not that it won't get used, but pretty much everyone i know either has or wants to get an iphone. It's like the standard device at this point. Build it into iOS? game over.
posted by emptythought at 2:59 AM on January 8, 2014 [82 favorites]


Slap that shit into an OS update and no one else will be able to kick the door open.

It really doesn't matter whether the precautions are built into the app or the operating system -- at some point it has to talk to the snapchat servers to get the actual data, and that communication can always be reverse engineered such that it can be implemented by a non-official client app. Apple can of course keep those sort of apps out of their app store, but you could just as easily use a desktop app masquerading as a phone, or use a rooted phone.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:07 AM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


In terms of social sharing "automatically revokable access and a verifiable chain of custody" is an amazing idea. Possibly the best Social Media idea idea I've yet heard.

It's a shame that it would be really really hard to do well.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:11 AM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


And I have no idea why anyone would trust a corporation to safeguard this. Apple, Google, Facebook, et al., have shown repeatedly they have zero interest in safeguarding your privacy, and indeed actively cooperate in sharing your photos, videos and email with the authorities and their "partners". That's their revenue model. And how could you ever trust a closed source application to do this properly?
posted by maxwelton at 3:30 AM on January 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


And what these discussions always seem to miss is the silver bullet function this is at least sold as even if it falls a little bit short of this goal: personal DRM.

There isn't any difference between corporate DRM and "personal" DRM and the discussion about corporations using DRM to prevent unauthorized dissemination of digital information would seem largely to be over. Indeed "automatically revokable access and a verifiable chain of custody" mentioned above was essentially what the RIAA wanted and what owners of MP3 players did not want.
posted by three blind mice at 3:54 AM on January 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Which, to just be completely straight up here, this is THE platform to send nudes without worrying that they're getting stored or will come back as any sort of "revenge" photo.

This is a terrible idea, though. Because they should worry about it.
posted by empath at 3:57 AM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Isn't this likely to arouse the attention of some ambitious prosecutor, eager to construe 14-year olds sending tit pics as "child pornographers"?
posted by thelonius at 4:05 AM on January 8, 2014


Which, to just be completely straight up here, this is THE platform to send nudes without worrying that they're getting stored or will come back as any sort of "revenge" photo.

Please continue worrying about that.

A coworker sends me snapchats of her baby. I screenshot every one and show them to our mutual coworker who doesn't have snapchat. (With permission.) They are being stored and shared. SC does not change that.
posted by kimberussell at 4:11 AM on January 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


orly? What I got from this particular statement is that there is a very specific period/generation of connected humans who have been just plain screwed in terms of behaviour-policing.
What I get is that every generation will stupidly believe anything stored digitally can be secure in the same way they think they invented sex.

Or that they can walk on my lawn.
posted by fullerine at 4:27 AM on January 8, 2014 [19 favorites]


And if you really want to feel like shit after reading about two soon-to-be billionaires who aren't even thirty, check out the slide show afterwards full of even more technology successes who are under-thirty.
posted by Renoroc at 4:32 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


It really doesn't matter whether the precautions are built into the app or the operating system -- at some point it has to talk to the snapchat servers to get the actual data, and that communication can always be reverse engineered such that it can be implemented by a non-official client app. Apple can of course keep those sort of apps out of their app store, but you could just as easily use a desktop app masquerading as a phone, or use a rooted phone.

If it took having a rooted phone and/or being able to successfully run a desktop app which mimics a phone in order to save any one user's photos, I think that's a level of sophistication that would mean the vast majority of users would be okay.

If you're saying that someone using such techniques could get access to full libraries of user photos that haven't been sent to them, that's a different kettle of fish.

As it is now though, it seems way too easy to circumvent this..
posted by Diablevert at 4:33 AM on January 8, 2014


It is insanely easy to take screenshots of Snapchats, at least on iOS.

I'll provide the counterpoint to emptythought's experience: I, too, am 23, and the majority of my friends never bothered to install Snapchat. My younger brother has it, and he reports that his friends use it for silly impulse texts, but he is far more active on Facebook and Tumblr than he is anywhere else.

Tumblr, not Snapchat, represents Facebook's biggest existential threat, because the allure of meeting new people who you have a lot in common with inside a space that allows for vulnerability and confessions is hugely appealing. It's why teens and twentysomethings already use Tumblr more than they use Facebook, according to a 2013 survey: it makes you feel more okay with being yourself in public.

The emphasis on real names is one of Facebook's only weaknesses. Though by "weaknesses", I mean "Facebook doesn't really have any weaknesses, and critics have harped on Facebook since literally 2005 despite its design team being a fuck of a lot more prescient than most anybody else in Silicon Valley". I covered Facebook as a journalist in 2006, and people were already laughing at how stupid Facebook was and how pretty soon everybody would be using the big new thing. Facebook, meanwhile, has continued to smugly and confidently dominate the entire universe at exactly the pace they were predicting all along.

I wrote about Facebook's current aims a month and a half ago for my blog: Facebook's Brilliant, Boring Master Plan. While I like to write long essays about loads of things I know next-to-nothing about, I have worked for a competing social network, written about Facebook professionally, and generally have been obsessed with Facebook's design and business plan for what's approaching a decade, so I will actually claim in this essay to know my shit.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:34 AM on January 8, 2014 [19 favorites]


When you're sending dubious selfies over internet protocol, you need "security," but you don't need cryptographic security. The kind you need is steganographic, to prevent people other than the intended recipient from noticing that you sent any message at all to the intended recipient. There are technologies for this, and they're actually pretty well developed and not all that hard to learn, but they are totally useless to advertisers, so you only find out about them if you look.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:47 AM on January 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


This is a terrible idea, though. Because they should worry about it.

Literally--and I mean this--the only thing I know about Snapchat is that kids used to think that it was a good way to send pictures of boobs and wieners, but it turns out that it's not. If I'm a teenager, and somebody is sending me nudes that self-destruct, you better believe that I will invest every ounce of spare energy into figuring out how to save those discreetly. It's sort of a no-brainer.

every generation will stupidly believe anything stored digitally can be secure

... although this is also true.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:49 AM on January 8, 2014


It's used for sending nude selfies and for bullying, mean-girl bullshit. Having Snapchat on the phone is cause for a groundin' among my tech-savvy peers who have teens. Most of them don't monitor IM or Facebook, just let the kids know about the catastrophic consequences of an online presence if you're not careful - but there is no use-case for Snapchat that doesn't involve some incredibly bad shit done to yourself or other people. Put your snapshots on instagram, don't take nude photos of yourself unless you do nude modeling as a hobby or profession.

An ideal online system preserves the user's privacy while enforcing accountability - Snapchat does the opposite, and the mechanisms in place to do it are flimsy and easily overridden. It's dystopia in your pocket.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:51 AM on January 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Maybe people use Snapchat for things besides dickpics, ever think of that?
posted by oceanjesse at 5:04 AM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


And what these discussions always seem to miss is the silver bullet function this is at least sold as even if it falls a little bit short of this goal: personal DRM.

As implemented and enforced by a third party providing a "free" service that has every incentive to monetize the information they're protecting?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:10 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


> And I have no idea why anyone would trust a corporation to safeguard this.

If you have any good ideas for how a non-corporate entity can develop the infrastructure necessary for an image-based social media network, get working on it.

(Before you cite Usenet as an example: Usenet is too old to be relevant, and doesn't fulfill the criteria because its store-and-forward method of communication depended on extensive decentralized infrastructure -- it duplicated and distributed the data burden across a large number of corporate entities.)
posted by ardgedee at 5:11 AM on January 8, 2014


ardgedee: "
If you have any good ideas for how a non-corporate entity can develop the infrastructure necessary for an image-based social media network, get working on it.
"

The technology for such a thing does exist. Serval mesh networking. The trouble is in the deployment, or rather that the nature of such decentralized projects means you can't really deploy the project per se, only a particular application of it.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:20 AM on January 8, 2014


Lesson learned early on from having read of technologies such as this and the horror that follows: never trust it, don't use it to put yourself into a compromising position.

There's always a way to break things and I really don't want to leave anything anywhere for anyone who wants to do me wrong.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:23 AM on January 8, 2014


Maybe people use Snapchat for things besides dickpics, ever think of that?

Well, maybe a fraction of of them. From Wikipedia:
Research conducted in the UK has shown that, as of June 2013, half of all 18 to 30-year-old respondents (47 percent) have received nude pictures, while 67 percent had received images of "inappropriate poses or gestures"
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:23 AM on January 8, 2014


> The trouble is in the deployment, or rather that the nature of such decentralized projects means you can't really deploy the project per se, only a particular application of it.

In that case it disqualifies itself. You have to keep adoption difficulties to an absolute minimum.

A noncorporate social media platform is not only a technological problem. It is also an interface design problem and a marketing problem. Not being able to address all three of these issues at least as well as existing commercial platforms do means the platform is DOA.
posted by ardgedee at 5:25 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Maybe people use Snapchat for things besides dickpics, ever think of that?

Usually for unflattering photoshops with very cruel captions of unpopular peers - this way, everyone will know who to tease and how, and it's extra funny, as they'll never know why everyone is snickering at them and since the picture has disappeared, you don't have to worry about being held accountable for bullying.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:26 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


So do people actually believe that this stuff somehow goes... away? That this one thing out of all the billions of things on the Internet is somehow not archived forever in a data center?

Because why? Because they don't let you see it and they tell you that's because it went to a farm somewhere where there's other deleted data to play with?
posted by Naberius at 5:28 AM on January 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


ardgedee: "Not being able to address all three of these issues at least as well as existing commercial platforms do means the platform is DOA."

Referring to platforms as "alive" or "dead" doesn't really mean the same thing in an open source context. It's true that Serval won't be displacing Facebook this week, but as long as there are developers, it will continue to exist in some form. Perhaps it will get a killer app some day.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:28 AM on January 8, 2014


This post made me realize I now am effectively a Crusty Old Geek, because:

(a) I immediately knew this is a Bad Idea, and can't believe people are dumb enough to trust this system for exchanging nude pictures of themselves.

(b) I could probably set up a safer system for my personal use with hardware and software resources I have lying around in a couple of days.

(c) I already know such an improvised system would not scale, and is not what casual users need.

(d) The set of possible users for this system would be empty.
posted by Dr Dracator at 5:30 AM on January 8, 2014 [23 favorites]


some ambitious prosecutor, eager to construe 14-year olds sending tit pics as "child pornographers"

Already a thing.
posted by flabdablet at 5:31 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


When I disassemble an old household appliance, and want to show off a little bit of the discovered mechanics to my brother living across the country, what better medium is there than Snapchat?
posted by oceanjesse at 5:50 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


On Android Snapchat doesn't even delete the photos -- it just renames them from .jpg to .nomedia and keeps them in a directory named RECEIVED_IMAGES_SNAPS.
posted by autopilot at 5:51 AM on January 8, 2014 [26 favorites]


When I disassemble an old household appliance, and want to show off a little bit of the discovered mechanics to my brother living across the country, what better medium is there than Snapchat?

Anything with a competent protocol. Literally anything.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:52 AM on January 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


When I disassemble an old household appliance, and want to show off a little bit of the discovered mechanics to my brother living across the country, what better medium is there than Snapchat?

Why not zoidberg email?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:53 AM on January 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


A coworker sends me snapchats of her baby. I screenshot every one [...] SC does not change that.

Snapchat notifies the sender that you took a screenshot. Your coworker presumably doesn't care, or maybe is flattered by it. But in other situations that would get you cut off. The real enforcement of the 'no sharing' rule is social, not technical.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:55 AM on January 8, 2014


Snapchat notifies the sender that you took a screenshot. Your coworker presumably doesn't care, or maybe is flattered by it. But in other situations that would get you cut off. The real enforcement of the 'no sharing' rule is social, not technical.

That's putting a lot of trust in an OS signal that can be intercepted or rendered irrelevant.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:59 AM on January 8, 2014


Usually for unflattering photoshops with very cruel captions of unpopular peers - this way, everyone will know who to tease and how, and it's extra funny, as they'll never know why everyone is snickering at them and since the picture has disappeared, you don't have to worry about being held accountable for bullying.

I mean, I'm sure that happens, but assuming that nude pictures and bullying are the only reasons teenagers would want a way to talk to each other that isn't monitored by adults is crazy. And I'm not really sure that bullying is worse when the images are immediately destroyed--to me, sending something via text that gets spread around in perpetuity is way worse than a mean comment that disappears in 5 seconds. I realize you have concerns about accountability, but do you really think that's a deterrent on iMessage or Whatsapp in a way that it isn't on Snapchat?

My friends and I are near 30. We use Snapchat to make pictures of our cats talk to each other.
posted by almostmanda at 6:01 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, snapchat isn't perfect.

But I do think that it represents a move toward using internet technology for communication in the ephemeral, offhand way that we speak.

Think about it - when we converse, nothing we say is recorded and archived; on the internet, it is, and that's why we argue and get in trouble and why they keep on writing articles about people who make bad choices and then their employer finds out, etc. It's a tension between the stuff that we reflexively think is ephemeral, and the technology that archives it.

With snapchat, there's no archiving (yes it's still vulnerable to various things but I'm talking average user here) - it more closely resembles the type of conversation we're used to.

Related: Teens aren't addicted to social media. they're addicted to each other.
posted by entropone at 6:05 AM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


What I got from this particular statement is that there is a very specific period/generation of connected humans who have been just plain screwed in terms of behaviour-policing.

I've meet and worked with people that get all bent out of shape over the idea of what people put out there. "He was drinking a beer and put that picture on his Facebook page! We need to fire him!" He was engaged in a legal adult activity most people enjoy as an adult. Get the stick out of your ass. "She sent her boyfriend a nudey pic and he put it on the internet! We need to fire her!" Maybe we need to find out who her boyfriend was (and beat him down for ruining this sort of things for other guys) and fire him. On and on.

I keep telling these people, "These kids aren't going to want to work for places that monitor this. They are going to go work for young people like themselves. People who did this shit as well." Honestly, the people who should be worried are the old stodgy folk who are going to be calling these kids "Boss" when they get laid off and no one will hire the old guy.

You hear a lot of stories about people who had this sort of thing hound and haunt them, but that's because it's rare. If it was common it wouldn't be news and the media wouldn't make stories out of them.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:05 AM on January 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


But I do think that it represents a move toward using internet technology for communication in the ephemeral, offhand way that we speak.

We already had that: IRC, MUDs/MOOs, instant messages, encrypted email. All of these can be logged from one end or the other, of course, but so can Snapchat. Pretending that it can't is ludicrous. Once the bits go into another person's computer, they can do whatever they like with them, and you have no way of knowing.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:08 AM on January 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


Snapchat notifies the sender that you took a screenshot.

I can't imagine that it would be too hard to code a screenshot app that circumvents that on a rooted Android phone.
posted by octothorpe at 6:13 AM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


emptythought: "There was a weird dead period of nudes being sent among youth pre-snapchat for maybe the past 3-4 years outside of long term monogamous relationships with the exception of dick picks and seriously happy go lucky people who didn't give a fuck."

I love living in a time when I can read that sentence and know what it means.
posted by chavenet at 6:31 AM on January 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


You can also do screen captures via the android dev tools without the phone being rooted and I'm almost certain the app won't be notified.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 6:35 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


If anyone finds a better way to send random, funny pictures to my friends in a quick, easy manner, I'll certainly jump to that.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:40 AM on January 8, 2014




Just think how many youngsters who are installing the android SDK or rooting their phones to save nude pictures will grow up to be software devs! The circle of life continues.
posted by Joe Chip at 6:45 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


You hear a lot of stories about people who had this sort of thing hound and haunt them, but that's because it's rare. If it was common it wouldn't be news and the media wouldn't make stories out of them.

I'll call bullshit on one element of that, anyway. It's a sure thing there are a lot more stories about folks getting fired for their social media idiocy than we hear about in the press.
posted by mediareport at 6:47 AM on January 8, 2014


Does SnapChat serve ads yet? I wonder how that will work. An interstitial with Dave's dickpic is brought to you by the all new Scion? Karen's tits are brought to you by M&Ms.
posted by birdherder at 7:02 AM on January 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


Teens of today have finally learned the hard-won lesson that they can't trust Facebook and Google. So they are going to immediate get in bed with Snapchat in a big way. This time it will be different, say today's teens.
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:20 AM on January 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


cjorgensen : I keep telling these people, "These kids aren't going to want to work for places that monitor this. They are going to go work for young people like themselves. People who did this shit as well."

That's not really realistic in a down economy, and it's a bit naive to suggest that hiring practices will change because of a sudden understanding that we all did stupid "shit" at one point because some of us didn't. Hiring is all about using limited information to predict whether or not a given candidate will yield the best performance, and it would be just as foolish to overlook someone's social media footprint as it would be to ignore their resume or not check their references. It may not be fair depending on how far back it goes, but it's a practice that isn't going away anytime soon.

You hear a lot of stories about people who had this sort of thing hound and haunt them, but that's because it's rare.

What about all the people who just apply for a job and get passed over without finding out why? With 43% of hiring managers reporting that information obtained via social media caused them to rule out a candidate it seems pretty likely that we're not hearing nearly enough stories about this sort of thing.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:28 AM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


As a college student who uses Snapchat extensively, at least in my circle we use Snapchat for party and drunk photos- we know better than to put photos of keg stands and debauchery on Facebook or other social media sites. Snapchat offers a relatively safe way of sharing these things.

I think it is worth reiterating that you control exactly who you send a snap to. Most of my snaps might get sent to two or three close friends, definitely not my entire Snapchat friend list. While it is possible that one of my friends has installed an unofficial client and secretly screenshots everything I send, I trust them (and their tech-illiteracy) enough not to worry.
posted by matrixclown at 7:43 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Snapchat Complies with Government Requests, Sends Images to Law Enforcement

Also, since the images are stored on the Google App Engine, they of course never disappear for good.


Eventually people will generally get more cautious about sending out nude pics, or social mores will relax to the point where such nude pics will no longer be scandalous. Exciting, yes, but news-worthy? No. If SnapChat does become a prevalent "safe" vector for sharing nude pics and enough people share nude pics, then at some point "everyone" will have done it, and no one will really care any more. It'll still matter when Senators send dick pics to young women, but people will largely roll their eyes when someone tries to "break" the story of an elected official sending nude pics as a youth, just like many Europeans (maybe reported as "The French"?) were not phased by the Monica Lewinsky scandal of '98.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:54 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've always been of the opinion that if a picture exists in any format, digital or analog, that you have to assume that it could end up on the open internet. So far, I've never seen anything to make me think otherwise.
posted by octothorpe at 8:02 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


To expand on my last post, at least within my college, the vast majority of snaps are benign. Snapchat is the fastest way for me to send a picture message, and most of the time the permanency is irrelevant.

The snaps I have received today are:
* A friend's dog
* A bowl of cereal and an iPad showing 30 Rock captioned "Breakfast of Champions"
* Friend asking when I got back to school
* A 5 second video of a friend lip-syncing Beyonce
* A different friend's dog

None of these would be bad if they were saved. At the same time why would we want to save them? I might snap 50-100 times a day, and none of them are worth keeping.
posted by matrixclown at 8:08 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


$3 billion is over the top FU money. But he said FU to it. Legend.
posted by stbalbach at 8:23 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'll call bullshit on one element of that, anyway. It's a sure thing there are a lot more stories about folks getting fired for their social media idiocy than we hear about in the press.

I'm sure there are, but that still doesn't make them common.

With 43% of hiring managers reporting that information obtained via social media caused them to rule out a candidate it seems pretty likely that we're not hearing nearly enough stories about this sort of thing.

And yet these kids are finding jobs, so some companies aren't caring.

I know for a fact that my internet presence has cost me dates, and probably even jobs, but I don't want to spend time with those kinds of people or work for those kinds of places. I once did an interview for a media company that wanted me to list all of my social media accounts and give them password access. I said, "Well, this interview is over." When asked why I said, "Well, either this is a test to see if I will give you this information and I've passed, since the answer is no. Or you are serious in which case I have no interest in anyone wasting any more of my time." The date in question was very similar.

People could be correct, your social media footprint may have adverse effects that will follow you for life. It may be your new permanent record, but I maintain it's the new norm and the companies that adapt will be around in another 20 years. The ones that don't will be IBM.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:30 AM on January 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile, the era of internet services with gatekeepers based on ownership of server infrastructure and bandwidth is now over.

Twister is a microblogging service (twitter) that uses decentralized data distribution and authentication lifted directly from bittorrent and bitcoin protocols. It. Doesn't. Need. A. Server. Or even an administrator.

This is the next evolution of p2p tech - if you can decentralize a massive file server (what bittorrent does), you can decentralize pretty much any web service, and offload storage, computational and bandwidth requirements entirely to the clients.

I'd be really fucking nervous if I made my money running internet-facing server-farms right now - old school or cloud-based. They're both dead men walking.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:32 AM on January 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


There's always taking a shot of the screen with a separate camera. No software can be written that will prevent that.
posted by prefpara at 9:15 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think Twister is going to replace very many real-value services. Twitter, sure. Maybe Facebook—although Diaspora never gained any ground. Payment processing? Secure messaging? Automated business processes? There is a tendency to view the user-facing web as the "real" Internet, but it's really a small part of what makes up the software industry. High noise, low signal startups are popular and visible, but there are many places quietly providing business services that will never be peer-to-peer. It's just philosophically impossible.
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:16 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm going to steal SnapChat's thunder when I release my new service. It will let users send messages that the recipient is forbidden to remember, let alone save.
posted by rustcrumb at 9:18 AM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Snapchat is the fastest way for me to send a picture message

I'm obviously an Old, and I'm missing something here, but how is it faster than MMS (or iMessage, for that matter)?
posted by uncleozzy at 9:26 AM on January 8, 2014


Which, to just be completely straight up here, this is THE platform to send nudes without worrying that they're getting stored or will come back as any sort of "revenge" photo.

Yeah, about that, there's at least one sub-Reddit dedicated to SnapChat nudes...or so I've heard.
posted by MikeMc at 9:31 AM on January 8, 2014


I don't think Twister is going to replace very many real-value services.

Secure IM is next on the hit parade. I'd imagine the decrepit clusterfuck that is email is on a very short list for this kind of decentralized service, too.

Snapchat, Instagram, Spotify, Reddit, all prime candidates to be replaced by swarm services. App stores of all descriptions - can you imagine an anonymous yet authenticated app rating and sharing system? Berzerk. The hottest new communications apps just show up on your homescreen, old and busted apps no-one uses anymore are quietly removed.

More, distributed computing research can now 1) slice VM's into tiny units that run on a massively distributed scale and 2) encrypt VM's so the host system can't peek into what's going on, despite owning the metal. This stuff is working in proof-of-concept applications. It will work nicely with swarm services... if your customers are paying for your bandwidth and computational resources anyhow, why not take out the middleman? They can run their part of your service on their own hardware and network connection.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:33 AM on January 8, 2014


Snapchat doesn't exist to hide your data from The Government. That might be what you want, but that's not the goal. It does, however, embrace the ephemeral, and that's awesome. The trend towards everything being saved forever has significant downsides. It's refreshing to see a service geared towards disposable communication.

Oh, and I've been pretty bad at predictions in the past, but I feel 100% confident that twister isn't going to have any significant usage (where significant means usage beyond a small cabal of the nerd set). Ever.
posted by aspo at 9:33 AM on January 8, 2014


I think my comments have gotten some flak above - I'm talking about using the service to send short little videos rather than short little pictures. When I'm on an iPhone, and can't send MMS because of my weird pre-paid mobile provider, and I want my brother to see my short little video on his Android phone, and I want that video to be a seamless part of our ongoing SMS dialogue about taking shit apart around the house, I think Snapchat is where it's at.

There's more to Snapchat than brogrammer nudie dataz, y'all. Not much more, but still. It's not sawing your nipples off to use a free telephone app to communicate with your friends and family in a new trendy way.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:02 AM on January 8, 2014


I'm going to steal SnapChat's thunder when I release my new service. It will let users send messages that the recipient is forbidden to remember, let alone save.

That sounds good. It'll be a SnapChat service that works the same way as that episode of Doctor Who with the space whale.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:06 AM on January 8, 2014


Why You Should Delete SnapChat (Spoiler: The founders are really really not people I would trust my information with.)

SnapChat Lawsuit, including some really awful things that were entered in evidence.

Instructional Video for viewing old snapchats on Android and the instructions for iOS.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:08 AM on January 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm wondering how many years it is before such a large percentage of people have nude photos of them floating around the net that it no longers affects hiring, because the bosses did the same thing, only didn't get caught, and then hire people who did, etc.

That said, I don't know anyone who uses Snapchat, but then, I'm not an iOS user, and most people I know aren't; too expensive vs a cheap Android once you factor in how much cheaper cell bills are without a phone on it.
posted by Canageek at 10:31 AM on January 8, 2014


there's at least one sub-Reddit dedicated to SnapChat nudes...or so I've heard.

I admit to not knowing the back alleys of Reddit particularly well, so maybe I'm just blissfully unaware, but if you mean /r/snapchat or /r/dirtysnapchat I think that's more about letting people exchange usernames so they can send snaps to each other. (And where sending snaps of your junk is either okay or not okay, respectively.)

Participating in the latter might or might not be the best idea, but it's not as though Reddit seems to be actually linking to screenshotted images directly. And they also apparently have /r/NSFWskype, /r/dirtykikpals or /r/dirtypenpals, which facilitate the same thing with Skype, Kik or email.

Good to know that you have your choice of protocol for showing off your bits to strangers on the Internet.

I don't know anyone who uses Snapchat, but then, I'm not an iOS user

They have a version for Android now as well, just as an aside.

Apparently (per Wikipedia) it's been around since late 2012 but I didn't hear anything about it, and didn't know anyone who used it, until it seemed to very suddenly become popular a few months ago. It seems a little reminiscent of Draw With Friends, in that everyone I know seems to be using it right now and I wonder if in six months they'll all have moved on to something else.

If that's the case, they may live to really regret turning down that $4B offer from Google.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:23 AM on January 8, 2014


I'm going to steal SnapChat's thunder when I release my new service. It will let users send messages that the recipient is forbidden to remember, let alone save.

So basically, this?
posted by zombieflanders at 11:39 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


but if you mean /r/snapchat or /r/dirtysnapchat I think that's more about letting people exchange usernames so they can send snaps to each other.

There's /r/NSFW_Snapchat/ which is explicitly just "here are pictures of naked people."
posted by Rhomboid at 11:44 AM on January 8, 2014


Back when people were talking about Diaspora as a possible Facebook challenger, I had an idea for a decentralized peer-to-peer social network. Idea being, if someone wants your information (photos, status updates, whatever), they need to ask your "server" for it. If your server is offline, or you removed the data or made it private, tough shit, no data. Of course, the "server" would have to be dead-simple and require basically nothing in the way of maintenance or administration. Maybe it could even run on your phone? Ultimately, I scrapped the idea, because your average Facebook user doesn't care enough about their privacy to install a program and port over their entire social network. But my idea could basically be summed up as "the Snapchat version of Facebook". And Snapchat is huge.

Maybe it's time to revisit this idea.
posted by evil otto at 11:59 AM on January 8, 2014


If your server is offline, or you removed the data or made it private, tough shit, no data.

I don't see how that really changes anything. All you'd have to do is write a version of the peer software that locally saves a copy of everything it retrieves. If Redditbro von Creppyshit wants to harvest and publish lurid pictures of young women, he can just run the modified peer and have it regularly poll for status updates from his targets' profiles.

The fundamental problem is that if you can display it, you can store it. In the absence of failing hardware (or trusted platforms, which have not caught on for general computing), there is really no such thing as data that can only be read once, as that is antithetical to computing as we've come to know it.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:13 PM on January 8, 2014


> The ones that don't will be IBM.

IBM's current market cap is 200B. You might want a different example there.
posted by bukvich at 12:18 PM on January 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


All you'd have to do is write a version of the peer software that locally saves a copy of everything it retrieves

That's why you don't let creeps into your network. I generally trust my friends not to do things like that.
posted by evil otto at 12:25 PM on January 8, 2014


Okay, but now you're just back to standard facebook rules of engagement, with no added protection. The people that do this kind of thing make up fake profiles and weasel their way into getting one friend in a circle to accept a friend invitation under vaguely plausible pretenses. You may trust your friends not to publicly expose your indiscretions, but you don't necessarily trust them to completely vet every last friend that they approve.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:36 PM on January 8, 2014


Okay, but now you're just back to standard facebook rules of engagement, with no added protection.

Not true. Facebook does all kinds of crap with your data without asking you, and removing your all your data is difficult if not impossible. The parties I distrust here are Facebook and 3rd-party app makers. I trust my friends just fine.

Provided you trust your friends, with a decentralized peer-to-peer network, you take down your data or make it private, it's gone.
posted by evil otto at 12:39 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not really talking about protecting your data from the service providers -- that's an entirely different concern; I'm talking about protecting it from individuals that would actively want to harvest it and expose it. And it's most certainly not gone if one of them weasels their way into your friend network as I described. This happens on facebook regularly, so why wouldn't it happen on your theoretical new system? There's no way to prevent it -- being able to delete the data from the machine that hosts it doesn't make it go away.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:43 PM on January 8, 2014


I'm talking about protecting it from individuals that would actively want to harvest it and expose it.

Sounds like kind of a PEBKAC issue, but I see your point.
posted by evil otto at 12:51 PM on January 8, 2014


dudekiller: "I'm going to make my millions by being a consultant to the tech industry teaching high-powered spokesmen to TUCK IN THEIR GOD-DAMN SHIRTS."
Stewart Pearson: So, what we're thinking... shirt outside the trowsers
Peter Mannion: Outside? Not tuck my shirt in?
Stewart Pearson: Yeah.
Peter Mannion: I always tuck my shirt in, it's part of getting dressed. What, should I not do my flies up either? Let the old chap flop out, is that modern enough for you?
Stewart Pearson: Just try it, Peter. Not the cock out, just the shirt thing.
posted by symbioid at 2:24 PM on January 8, 2014


Provided you trust your friends, with a decentralized peer-to-peer network, you take down your data or make it private, it's gone.

Provided you also trust your hardware, software, compiler, government spooks, etc. (I say this as someone who uses a P2P network to chat and share stuff with family members.)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:25 PM on January 8, 2014


Rhomboid: It really doesn't matter whether the precautions are built into the app or the operating system -- at some point it has to talk to the snapchat servers to get the actual data, and that communication can always be reverse engineered such that it can be implemented by a non-official client app. Apple can of course keep those sort of apps out of their app store, but you could just as easily use a desktop app masquerading as a phone, or use a rooted phone.

The point here isn't pentagon level security. There won't really ever be any such thing since you need to have the keys and the lock DRM style. The point is that it needs to just be strong enough that:

A. Some 13 year old script kiddie can't google it and run something along the lines of evasi0n that pretty much anyone can just click ok and go on to break the data out. If you have to jailbreak the phone, install SSH, and monitor some cache directory then you're already excluding MOST people who aren't serious nerds. Internet nerds tend to forget this

B. And more importantly, make the app itself very aware of any tampering. It's easy to detect if you have a jailbroken device and several apps have done so already. That, plus detecting screenshots without the person putting in a lot of effort to circumvent that is good enough.

There isn't any difference between corporate DRM and "personal" DRM and the discussion about corporations using DRM to prevent unauthorized dissemination of digital information would seem largely to be over. Indeed "automatically revokable access and a verifiable chain of custody" mentioned above was essentially what the RIAA wanted and what owners of MP3 players did not want.

I meant it more in a "wresting control back from the corporations" sense. Yes, it's exactly the same thing but it's often used as a weapon against consumers wishes rather than a method of enabling them to have control over their own personal information. DRM isn't inherently evil, but it's like a gun. It all depends on who is using it and to what end.

Cjorgensen: You hear a lot of stories about people who had this sort of thing hound and haunt them, but that's because it's rare. If it was common it wouldn't be news and the media wouldn't make stories out of them.

I've rode this pony on here before, but a friend of mine was denied a job after acing the interview because she doesn't have a facebook. The company was flat out convinced she had hidden it behind some alias-name and wouldn't employ anyone they couldn't do a social media check on.

Ridiculous and probably a shitty place to work? Yea. Fairly common? Yea. There's been other posts on here by people who worked at places that denied jobs for people who had completely public facebooks(or also no facebook) or who either watched people get hassled or personally got hassled for stuff like what you described being online that was completely normal.

It's way more common than you're implying, and i've heard of multiple cases of it in meatspace in direct conversation, none of that "oh yea a friend of nicks complained about that" crap.

Stoneweaver: Why You Should Delete SnapChat (Spoiler: The founders are really really not people I would trust my information with.)

SnapChat Lawsuit, including some really awful things that were entered in evidence.


While there are legitimate points to be made about the non-bulletproof security of the app, a lot of this article really strikes me as hand wringing BS. The entire section that's quoting the guys who made it and talking about them being bros and assholes strikes me as the bad kind of SJ warrior ad hominem internet logic BS. Who cares if they're assholes? I half expected that section to go in to a thing that was like "and therefor you should be afraid that they're looking at the pictures" or something unprovable like that, especially with the volume of the traffic going through the service... but no, it's just pure "these guys are dicks and you shouldn't use this or let your kids use it because they're dicks". The Angie Varona case doesn't even have anything to do with it either.

This just strikes me as another alarmist "why you should be afraid of your kids sexting" hit piece a lot like the "why you should be afraid of your kids using MSN messenger and AIM" shit from at least a decade ago.

Kids are GOING to send eachother nude pics. Isn't having them "self destruct" like this the right idea? Snapchat might not be perfect, but it's essentially a proof of concept for something that honestly should exist and is better than the alternatives.

But seriously, can you really look at this line and not just roll your eyes so hard they break?

Is that how you like to be talked about? If you are a parent, are you excited about your daughter being targeted to send images through a service to “certified bros” who call your daughter a “betch.”

I think not.


Christ.

Any article that concludes that NO ONE SHOULD EVER SEND NUDES EVER. Is basically as bad as "don't do any drugs! weed is as bad as meth!". Kids are going to do it, and when nothing super awful happens immediately they're going to think everything they were told is bullshit. We should be focusing on best practices with this sort of stuff, not "drinking one beer will cause you to collapse and die".
posted by emptythought at 2:26 PM on January 8, 2014


OK, so a couple things...

1) After thinking about it, one thing that struck me about microblogging/"the stream" was the transience of it. This was back in, maybe 2009? I started to think about the concept of Impermanence and our lack of historical perspective when it comes to the online world. How we have vast data stores that's just shit taking up space and nobody ever goes back to (well, except for the services that love to keep it for marketing/datadroids).

So I thought of the world's first Buddhist Microblogging platform "Imperma.net". The idea was that over time, the posts would suffer bit-rot, fade out or scramble the messages some how. Everything would erase - not as instant as snapchat, but still... The idea was there. But of course, it came into existence in a more vulgar form. Such is the mass media world we live in.

2) There was a project around that time as well (maybe a little earlier) that used Distributed Hash Tables to create a system for secure deletion of data wherever it may be... Sort of like the "this message will self-destruct after X seconds" and it wouldn't matter who had it. I can't remember much about it, but it did exist. It's a different thing, being that it used DHT and concepts around p2p systems (vs standard web services like snapchat/fb, etc...) Still I can't help but think about that whenever impermanent stuff like this arises...
posted by symbioid at 2:31 PM on January 8, 2014


matrixclown: To expand on my last post, at least within my college, the vast majority of snaps are benign.

And the majority of Facebook, emails, and other general online banter/correspondence is benign, too. The point is not that SnapChat is turning young people into camgirls and camboys, but that people think it's a safe venue to share/trade such pics. Except it's not a perfectly safe system, as shown by the massive data breach/ leak/ hack, which could data that could easily be used to compromise other systems, especially when paired with previous leaks/ hacks. Add on the reverse engineered protocols Rhomboid mentioned, and the safe, private environment may not be out-right dangerous, but it's neither safe nor private.

All this doesn't mean you should stop using SnapChat, just that you should be careful how you do use it.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:37 PM on January 8, 2014




evil otto: you might want to look into plog. The underlying idea there was (IIRC) that while most non-technical users couldn't deploy it themselves, there would be multiple competing plog hosting services. The architecture makes it possible to just leave your current one and go on to another if the one you're using is doing untoward things.
posted by suetanvil at 2:52 PM on January 8, 2014


Just think how many youngsters who are installing the android SDK or rooting their phones to save nude pictures will grow up to be software devs! The circle of life continues.

And thus the industry will remain chocabloc with misogynistic assholes. Oh, yay.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:52 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also - Evil Otto is right - the only way to come close to some form of secure personal social network is to only trust those people you already know and very judiciously pick and choose others from their network. Then, you must be the one to control your own end of the network. The need for "always on" or some form of caching across the network so users who aren't always on, can still sync to your account to see the latest poss is important, but if you're worried about security, a mechanism like I linked to is ultimately necessary - you need to control your data regardless of where it resides.

Given all we know about the NSA and the lack of sophistication of the every day user, I suspect we're fucked in an acceptance of anything like this. People don't want to be responsible for their data, and worse, even people that do can easily be lazy.
posted by symbioid at 2:54 PM on January 8, 2014


There isn't any difference between corporate DRM and "personal" DRM and the discussion about corporations using DRM to prevent unauthorized dissemination of digital information would seem largely to be over. Indeed "automatically revokable access and a verifiable chain of custody" mentioned above was essentially what the RIAA wanted and what owners of MP3 players did not want.

This is a very relevant comparison (but of course there are important subtleties to be sorted out, since corporations aren't people, and the usage/meaning of the data being copied is different). I don't buy the intuition that this tech helps people retain some semblance of privacy in the digital age, nor the claim that this is a socially subversive technology comparable to p2p file sharing or bitcoins or whatever. I also don't buy the transience/ephemeral data argument, which is half-baked until one properly shows that restricting data lends itself to an authentic transience. Beyond the technical problem of feasibility, what is sorely needed is people asking why they think this is good for society, and a short answer is probably a wrong answer.
posted by polymodus at 4:27 PM on January 8, 2014


Snapchat doesn't exist to make bits uncopyable, which is akin to making water not wet.

It exists primarily to hide things from overbearing, annoying, snooping parents (don't take it personally).

No snapchat hack I've seen is able to revive seen (and thus already 'deleted') snaps, they all require that you haven't seen the snap already - but they've already been seen and 'deleted' at school, before getting home; before mom started snooping, again. And the whole point is the seen ones are already deleted, so mom can't know what sort of hell you've been raising with the other 15-year olds.

And while teens *can* get up to some messy shit which would draw in law enforcement, the big worry is grief from parents, yours or otherwise. The social taboo against screenshotting snapchats works both ways, where snaps that should legitimately be saved and reported to the authorities get auto-'deleted' simply because saving snaps is simply so taboo.

Snapchat's not an 'adult'-grade service - I'm sure 'deleted' snaps are providable to law enforcement, but as a teenager, how often are the cops involved in my rich-suburban high school life? (This is a smartphone app, so I'm assuming poor teenagers aren't sporting iPhone's with data plans.)
posted by fragmede at 5:40 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


The notifications for screenshots are apparently very easy to work around by cutting the data connection before taking the screenshot, then logging off snapchat before re-establishing it.
posted by walrus at 3:43 AM on January 9, 2014


fragmede: "No snapchat hack I've seen is able to revive seen (and thus already 'deleted') snaps" ...
You must have missed the link upthread to the guy who figured out how to retrieve seen snapchats on Android devices.
posted by brokkr at 7:49 AM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Snapchat doesn't exist to make bits uncopyable, which is akin to making water not wet. It exists primarily to hide things from overbearing, annoying, snooping parents (don't take it personally).

Precisely. To borrow the name of another approach, it's pretty good privacy, or maybe just good enough privacy. The snapchat doesn't come with your name slathered all over it the way your FB photo page does -- at least not the ones I've seen. Somebody can't say "Let's look up what Jane posted on Snapchat" because there's no way to do that. That counts for employers and -- at least for a first blush -- even feds. But mostly for parents and principals. It doesn't actually protect against the frenemy problem, but that's usually at a level that kids (rightly or wrongly) think they can handle.

See, we're not measuring Snapchat against some hypothetically ideal privacy protocol here. We're measuring it against Facebook, which in every way is designed and built to be the sworn enemy of privacy. That's the use case for teens: Not-Facebook.
posted by dhartung at 2:21 PM on January 9, 2014


You must have missed the link upthread to the guy who figured out how to retrieve seen snapchats on Android devices.

Basically that trick involves running an "undelete" utility on the Android device's filesystem. It's probably not something that most casual snoopers are going to do. It's also pretty time-consuming.

It's disappointing that Snapchat is vulnerable at all though, since it doesn't seem like there's any reason for them to write the snaps to flash. I don't think that the application retrieves the snaps from the server until you launch it (or it has to be running in the background), so it could just download them to memory and then release the memory after the snap is viewed. Nothing written to flash, nothing to recover.

You might still be able to recover them using a "cold boot" style attack, but then you're talking about a different grade of attacker than someone running a flash-memory recovery program.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:34 PM on January 9, 2014


Yea, seriously. This is getting a ton of hate in here as being "omg unsecure!" which is exactly the kind of absolutist nerd logic i was talking about(and once again, i'm not hating, i suffer from it fairly frequently as well). It's a "good is the enemy of the perfect" thing.

This is the first generation of this sort of thing, and it's still the least of all available evils as a realistic way that young people would tackle this sort of problem.

There's a lot of "people think this is something it isn't" going on here, when i really think it's just that people correctly think there isn't some massively better alternative available.

Pretty good privacy is spot on. If it can foil say, 49/50 potential "attackers" in someones peer group, and there's also an established social stigma against screenshotting the stuff. then i think it's working pretty fine.

I mean, FFS, i'm the only person i know with a jailbroken iphone since ios7 has come out, and i would say probably 65-70% of the people i know have them. I don't know more than one or two people who have a rooted android phone or even bother around with using tools they would need to so they could even access the files on that system.

I think people are really missing who the average user of this is male or female, and that an enormous swath of them would go "what?" very quickly if you tried to explain the process of cracking this to save the images to them.

A lot of this argument would also apply to door locks. They're not very secure technically, but yea, good enough.
posted by emptythought at 2:37 PM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


« Older Last week I thought about being a nurse.   |   You'll probably want your winter wetsuit Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments